Dear colleagues

I think it is appropriate to inform you about the remarkable change that has taken place in the media coverage of Samherji issues in relation to Namibia. On Wednesday, Norway's Aftenposten's special magazine, Innsikt, published a lengthy apology for coverage that appeared in the previous issue. This is the first time that a reputable media outlet has accepted our point of view that one-sided and biased narratives have no place in quality news coverage, as we have genuinely experienced both here in Iceland and abroad. I will go over Aftenposten's apology in more detail with you.

"Aftenposten Innsikt apologises for errors and lack of contradiction in the February edition"

This is the headline of the article that appeared in the March edition that was published midweek, referring to the February issue where there was an unbalanced coverage on Samherji spanning eight pages. Journalists who have long shown a particular interest in our company referred to the article with the words that the magazine was published by the "prominent Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten", obviously to give this coverage increased weight.

The article is both a correction and an apology, and numerous errors that appeared in the February edition are corrected. Aftenposten notes explicitly that the report was based on a one-sided account by Jóhannes Stefánsson. The methodology is familiar to us; articles are communicated to foreign media and then cited and re-published in Iceland. Many articles of this kind have appeared in foreign media, all similar to what Aftenposten is now apologising for.

One-sided narrative, no indictment, no deal

In Aftenposten's apology, it is stated that the newspaper violated its internal processes, which led to Samherji not being allowed to present its point of view, contrary to fundamental principles of media ethics. The readers were not informed that the article was based on Jóhannes Stefánsson's one sided account of events. Nor was it made clear that the matter is under investigation in Iceland and that the question of guilt will not be settled until there is a legally binding judgment or the case is dropped. No individuals in Iceland have been indicted, and neither individuals nor Samherji-companies are involved in the criminal proceedings in Namibia. Also, Aftenposten could not have stated, as was done in the article, that Stefánsson "acted on behalf of" Samherji in connection with bribes paid to individuals in Namibia, or that an agreement to that effect had been entered into between Samherji and Namibian persons. A statement regarding Stefánsson's end of employment and his leak to Wikileaks is also corrected. It was not mentioned that the leak occurred three years after his employment with Samherji was terminated.

No data supports statements of profit

Among other statements Aftenposten corrects is a claim regarding Samherji's business relationship with the Norwegian bank DNB and an assertion that Samherji's operations in Namibia were operated "with great profitability", which is unfounded. The newspaper also corrects misrepresentations about the quota holdings of Samherji Ísland ehf. in Iceland. It was claimed that it accounted for 24.3 per cent of the total quota, but the correct figure is 8.78 per cent.

The paper also corrects a statement that an investigation by the police in Akureyri, where several journalists have the legal status of a defendant due to alleged violations of privacy, is in some way related to these same journalists' coverage of the Namibia case. This is an entirely unrelated issue and irrelevant to the main topic of the article published in February.

More apologies

It is gratifying that an honest, respected medium has finally seen through the web that has been spun about Samherji and led by a powerful media group here in Iceland. I don't need to mention the names of the relevant members of the media and those who lead them. These are well-known people who now face a criminal investigation. Their patron is the top executive of the public limited company with the most power. Nothing more needs to be said about that.

Aftenposten, which is one of Norway's most respected media, made a mistake but had the courage and ability of a sophisticated media to correct the errors without hesitation and in a prominent way. In my opinion, this apology by Aftenposten is an important milestone for all of us. We have stood together and supported each other, and now we have an unexpected ally from Norway who agrees with us. Some members of the Icelandic media used this false article from Aftenposten and based news coverage on it. We should expect them to publish apologies sooner rather than later, even if such practices are somewhat foreign to them.

Morgunbladid, one of the media outlets in Iceland, has given a detailed account of Aftenposten's newsworthy and honest apology without having covered the story previously. It shows that quality journalism still exists in Iceland.

Dear co-workers.

This news raises many interesting questions that journalists must be pondering. For example, one can wonder if a reputable media outlet can use a news report from another media outlet that has a dubious reputation as a source for its reporting without further analysis? And who is responsible when a news story turns out to be wrong? One can assume that such topics will be discussed by the journalistic institutions in Iceland in the near future, and perhaps also equality, neutrality and the futility of ethics committees.

I think it is important that you receive the right information about what exactly was corrected. Therefore, I had the apology translated, and it is attached in both Icelandic and English. Also included is information about the company that publishes Aftenposten, which is one of Norway's largest and most respected media companies.

Best regards, and have a nice weekend,
Thorsteinn Már

Aftenposten Insight apologises
Aftenposten Innsikt biðst afsökunar